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Comment: Re:It's always dark matter. Except when it isn't. (Score 1) 100

by mcelrath (#47319585) Attached to: Mysterious X-ray Signal Hints At Dark Matter

Wikipedia is usually a good reference. These two articles talk about it. It's the oldest evidence for "dark matter". Either that or it's evidence that gravity doesn't behave entirely the way described by Einstein. The latter view has fallen out of favor due to the lack of good theories adopting that viewpoint. The former has fallen into favor due to the copious selection of theories containing a particle with little or no interactions (it's easy to do). Neither of these theory-spaces has been proven to be correct (yet).

Comment: It's always dark matter. Except when it isn't. (Score 0) 100

by mcelrath (#47318579) Attached to: Mysterious X-ray Signal Hints At Dark Matter

Hey look, it's $something_we_dont_understand, and ooh, I can claim it's evidence for $todays_fad!

Astrophysics is big, messy, complicated, and difficult to measure. We just can't send probes to other galaxies to see what's really going on. Most of the time these things have more mundane explanations. But, until we figure out why galactic rotation curves are wonky, everyone will claim everything is due to dark matter.

Comment: Re:No point encrypting if you're the only one... (Score 2) 108

I've been using GPG for more than a decade, but in recent years I've stopped signing my messages because it often trips up poorly-configured spam filters. That, combined with the fact that you can't be certain that the recipient has received or read a message makes using GPG (and potentially losing your email) risky.

While "read receipts" exist in many proprietary formats, we need it to be standardized and deployed globally. Hey, let's use our GPG keys to do it?

Science

How Concrete Contributed To the Downfall of the Roman Empire 384

Posted by samzenpus
from the huff-and-puff-and-blow-your-civilization-down dept.
concertina226 (2447056) writes "The real reason behind the downfall of the Roman Empire might not have been lead contaminating in the water, which is the most popular theory, but the use of concrete as a building material. Dr Penelope Davies, a historian with the University of Texas believes that the rise of concrete as a building material may have weakened ancient Rome's entire political system as Pompey and Julius Caesar began 'thinking like kings'. Concrete was used to build many of Rome's finest monuments, such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Tabularium, which have lasted the test of time and are still standing today."

Comment: Bitcoin as a government experiment (Score 1) 221

by mcelrath (#46467661) Attached to: The Future of Cryptocurrencies

I've always wondered whether Bitcoin actually originated with the CIA, NSA, or Federal Reserve (or analogous agencies in other countries), or maybe a major bank.

I mean, it's a brilliant kind of experiment. Let it loose in the wild and see how it behaves, as a prelude to adopting an official, government backed version, using the lessons learned from Bitcoin. It's the kind of thing you want to have in the wild, to see what people do with it, before adopting something in an ad-hoc and flawed way (like credit cards..).

+ - Slashdot Beta Woes 16

Submitted by s.petry
s.petry (762400) writes "What is a Slashdot and why the Beta might destroy it?

Slashdot has been around, well, a very long time. Longer than any of it's competators, but not as long as IIRC. Slashdot was a very much one of the first true social media web sites.

On Slashdot, you could create a handle or ID. Something personal, but not too personal, unless you wanted it to be. But it was not required either. We know each other by our handles, we have watched each other grow as people. We may have even taken pot shots at each other in threads. Unless of course you are anonymous, but often we can guess who that really is.

One of Slashdot's first motto's was "News for Nerds" that Matters. I have no idea when that was removed. I have not always scoured the boards here daily, life can get too busy for that. That excuses my ignorance in a way. I guess someone thought it politically incorrect, but most of us "Nerds" enjoyed it. We are proud of who we are, and what we know. Often we use that pride and knowledge to make someone else look bad. That is how we get our digs in, and we enjoy that part of us too. We don't punch people, we belittle them. It's who we are!

What made Slashdot unique were a few things. What you will note here is "who" has been responsible for the success of Slashdot. Hint, it has never been a just the company taking care of the servers and software.

— First, the user base submitted stories that "they" thought mattered. It was not a corporate feed. Sure, stories were submitted about companies. The latest break through from AMD and Intel, various stories regarding the graphic card wars, my compiler is better than your compiler, and yes your scripting language stinks! Microsoft IIS has brought us all a few laughs and lots of flame wars to boot. Still, we not only read about the products but get to my second point.

— User comments. This is the primary why we have been coming here for as long as we have, many of us for decades. We provide alternative opinions or back what was given in the article. This aspect not only makes the "News" interesting, but often leads to other news and information sharing. It's not always positive, but this is the nature of allowing commentary. It also brings out the third point.

— Moderation. Moderation has been done by the community for a very long time. It took lots of trial and error to get a working system. As with any public system it's imperfect, but it's been successful. People can choose to view poorly modded comments, but don't have to. As with posting anonymous versus with our own handle it's an option that allows us to personalize the way we see and read what's on the site. And as a reward for submitting something worth reading, you might get a mod point of your own to use as a reward for someone else.

Why we dislike Beta and what is being pushed, and why this will result in the end of an era if it becomes forced on the community.

1. Bulky graphics. We get that Dice and Slashdot need revenue. I have Karma good enough to disable advertisements, but have never kept this setting on. I realize that Slashdot/Dice make money with this. That said, the ads sit away from my news and out of the way. I can get there if I want it (but nobody has ever gotten a penny from me clicking an ad... nobody!), but it's not forced into my face or news feed.

2. Low text area. I like having enough on my screen to keep me busy without constant scrolling. Slashdot currently has the correct ratio of text to screen. This ratio has never been complained about, yet Beta reduces the usable text area by at least 1/2 and no option for changing the behavior. I hate reading Slashdot on mobile devices because I can't stand scrolling constantly.

3. JavaScript. We all know the risks of JS, and many of us disable it. We also have an option of reading in Lync or non-standard browsers that many of us toy with for both personal and professional reasons. This flexibility is gone in Beta, and we are forced to allow JS to run. If you don't know the risks of allowing JS to run, you probably don't read much on Slashdot. Those that allow JS do so accepting the risk (which is admittedly low on a well known site).

4. Ordering/Sorting/Referencing. Each entry currently gets tagged with a unique thread ID. This allows linking to the exact post in a thread, not just the top of the thread. In Beta this is gone. It could be that the site decided to simply hide the post ID or it was removed. Either way, going to specific posts is something that is used very commonly by the community.

5. Eye candy. Most of us are not here for "eye candy" and many have allergic reactions to eye candy. Slashdot has a good mix currently. It's not as simple as the site starting with a r-e-d-i-t, which is good. That site has a reputation that keeps many of us away, and their format matches my attitude of them (s-i-m-p-l-e-t-o-n). At the same time, it's not like watching some other "news" sites with so much scrolling crap I can't read an article without getting a headache. The wasted space in beta for big bulky borders, sure smells like eye candy. Nothing buzzes or scrolls yet, but we can sense what's coming in a patch later.

The thing is, the community cares about Slashdot. We come here because we care. We submit stories because of that, we vote because of that, we moderate because of that, and we comment because of that. At the same time we realize that without the community Slashdot loses most of its value. We respect that we don't host the servers, backup the databases, or patch the servers. Slashdot/Dice provide the services needed for Slashdot.

It's a give give relationship, and we each get something in return. Slashdot gets tons of Search hits and lots of web traffic. We get a place to learn, teach, and occasionally vent.

Look, if you want to change default color scheme or make pre-made palettes for us to choose from, we would probably be okay with that. If you want to take away our ability to block ads by Karma, or move the ads to the left side of my browser window, I would be okay with those things too.

If you want to make drastic changes to how the site works, this is a different story all together. The reason so many are against Beta is that it breaks some of the fundamental parts of what makes Slashdot work.

User input until recently has not been acknowledged. The acknowledgment we have received is not from the people that are making the decision to push Beta live. We told people Beta was broken, what it lacked, and we were rather surprised to get a warning that Beta would be live despite what we told people. People are already making plans to leave, which means that Slashdot could fade away very soon.

Whether this was the goal for Dice or not remains to be seen. If it is, it's been nice knowing you but I won't be back. A partnership only works when there is mutual respect between the parties. A word of caution, us Nerds have good memories and lots of knowledge. The loss of Slashdot impacts all of Dice holdings, not just Slashdot. I boycott everything a company holds, not just the product group that did me wrong.

If that was not the goal of Dice, you should quickly begin communicating with the user base. What are the plans are to fix what Beta has broken? Why is Beta being pushed live with things broken? A "Sorry we have not been communicating!", and perhaps even a "Thank you" to the user base for helping make Slashdot a success for so many years."

Comment: BTRFS or ZFS (Score 1) 321

by mcelrath (#45652345) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Practical Bitrot Detection For Backups?

BTRFS and ZFS both do checksumming and can detect bit-rot. If you create a RAID array with them (using their native RAID capabilities) they can automatically correct it too. Using rsync and unison I once found a file with a nice track of modified bytes in it -- spinning rust makes a great cosmic ray or nuclear recoil detector. Or maybe the cosmic ray hit the RAM and it got written to disk. So, use ECC RAM.

But "bit-rot" occurs far less frequently than this: I find is that on a semi-regular basis my entire filesystem gets trashed (about once every year or three). This happened to me just last week...my RAID1 BTRFS partitions (both of them) got trashed because one of my memory modules went bad. In the past I've had power supplies go bad causing this, or brown outs, and in other cases I never identified the cause. I've seen this happen across ext3, jfs, xfs, and btrfs so it's (probably) not the file system's fault. In such cases, fsck will often make the problem worse. (Use LVM and its "snapshot" feature to perform fsck on a snapshot without destroying the original). You'd think these advanced filesystems would have a way to rewind to a working copy (for instance in BTRFS -- mount a previous "generation") but this seems to not be the case.

Anyway, btrfs guys, your recovery tools could be a lot better. The COW enables some pretty fancy recovery techniques that you guys don't seem to be doing yet. If you've got a great btrfs or zfs recovery technique, please reply and tell us.

Comment: Re:City of Vienna, anyone ? (Score 1, Informative) 234

by mcelrath (#45575203) Attached to: Property Managers Use DNA To Sniff Out Dog Poop Offenders
Brilliant. Every time I've been forced to not pick up poop, it was because I didn't have a bag, not because I wanted to (and where possible I always go back and get it later). I've had my dog shit three times on one walk. I'm really tired of hearing "solutions" to problems created by psychopaths. This "solution" using poop and DNA utterly lacks empathy towards dog owners, and that's what psychopaths do. There are better ways.

Comment: Treating tenants like criminals (Score 1) 234

by mcelrath (#45574289) Attached to: Property Managers Use DNA To Sniff Out Dog Poop Offenders
Wow, what a wonderful way to improve the already adversarial relationship between property managers and tenants. No thanks, I'll live elsewhere. If it were my building, I'd quietly have maintenance clean up any poop they found, and verbally remind tenants if they catch them in the act.

Comment: Re:Wait a Generation (Score 2) 63

by mcelrath (#45383213) Attached to: Could We "Wikify" Scholarly Canons?

It will not take "a generation" to make the shift. It will take a systematic change in the hiring and funding priorities of universities, labs, and grant agencies. A faculty candidate who has chosen to publish only in open access journals (with no articles in Science or Nature or other "prestigious" journals) needs to be able to win the job over another candidate with publications in "prestigious" journals. Likewise, a researcher must be able to win a grant over other researchers under the same circumstances.

Currently, choosing to publish in open-access journals is arguably career suicide.

Comment: Patents and trade bans (Score 2) 298

by mcelrath (#45073329) Attached to: Obama Administration Refuses To Overturn Import Ban On Samsung Products

Patent enforcement should be purely economic. How much money did the infringing party make off using the patent, how much did the patent holder invest to create the patent, and therefore how much do they owe to the patent holder? Restitution should consist entirely of monetary awards.

The patent holder is often not the most capable or appropriate entity to utilize the patent. Enforcing bans like this is anti-competitive and doesn't help anyone. The patent holder would be better off receiving money from a more competent implementation of its patent, than banning all competitors and forcing everyone to use their incompetent device.

Many people are unenthusiastic about their work.

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